Girl time!

A relaxing spa can be the ideal place to spend quality time with a friend or two.
When was the last time you spent quality time with a good friend? I don’t do that as often as I used to, and sadly not as often as I would like.
According to experts, spending time with good friends is a boon as well as being enjoyable. A new study out of the UK, recently reported in the Huffington Post, found that children who experienced “unpleasant events” with their best friends produced lower levels of cortisol than those who experienced the same events alone. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can shorten your life. Cortisol is also responsible for adding fat around your middle. It is definitely not something you want to encourage!
In an article entitled An Alternative to Fight or Flight, Gale Berkowitz reported that," A landmark UCLA study suggested that friendships between women are special.” She reports, “They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are.” Can you think of a better reason to slow down and make time for your friends? I can’t.
So when my good friend and colleague Angela D'Amario and I had the opportunity to investigate the girl’s getaway at The Chattanoogan Hotel, we didn’t hesitate. We were both overdue for some serious R&R and catching up. Busy work schedules and a very nasty cold on my part had left us both tired and little stressed.
A relaxing spot to chatChattanooga is a pretty little city tucked away in the gorgeous Tennessee Mountains. It is an easy two-hour drive from Atlanta and the perfect destination for anyone looking for fall getaway with temperate weather and beautiful scenery.
Angela had visited Chattanooga before, but it was my first visit. I was charmed by the welcoming, walkable city. It was wonderful after driving in Atlanta’s traffic to be able to hand the car over the hotel’s valet and then forget about it for the duration of the trip. Restaurants, bars, festivals, shopping, and the amazing Tennessee Aquarium were all within walking distance or reachable by the free electric trolley from our hotel.
But darlings, we really didn't come for sightseeing, although we did visit the aquarium. And we had a lovely lunch at Nikos, a cute Greek restaurant on the south side of the city, before checking into the hotel. We came for the spa. As a career beauty editor, I can tell you that all hotel spas are not fabulous. Most of them are luxuriously appointed, but the level of services can vary. It is possible to get a mediocre massage or second-rate pedicure in very posh surroundings, but for a very steep price. I have experienced both.
The spa at The Chattanoogan is low-key, in keeping with the mountain setting. But don’t be fooled this is a serious spa with all the amenities and top-notch technicians, as Angela and I found out.
I had a combination deep tissue and sports massage to deal with my aching muscles. My massage therapist, Nicole, expertly zeroed in on the muscles I overuse in my daily workout, and she also worked on my achy joints. She was thorough, intense, and careful as she kneaded away my aches and pains. My massage also included a pumpkin scrub for my feet. Nicky also applied a moisturizing aqua pack to my face as she worked on my neck and shoulders to soothe my dry skin. It was heavenly.
Angela had the “nourishing facial”. The treatment was selected for her by her esthetician, Paula, based on questionnaires we filled out when arrived at the spa detailing. Angela told me Paula applied different anti-oxidants to her skin with a very gentle massage. She also massaged Angela’s neck, shoulders, hands, and feet. After the facial Angela's skin calm and glowing. Angela skin is prone to redness and Paula’s treatment was very effective. Paula also applied a collagen eye treatment which Angela said was an add-on to her facial.
Even the next day, we both still felt the benefits of our spa pampering.
After our afternoon of renewal we were so relaxed that it was fabulous not to have to leave the hotel for dinner. We headed down to the hotel’s restaurant, The Broad Street Grille. We were delighted to discover the emphasis on a farm-to-table menu featuring fresh local ingredients.
The service at the restaurant – and the hotel for that matter – was friendly and welcoming.  We were offered the choice of sitting at a regular table or the chef’s table, which is a bar that overlooks the kitchen prep area. The chef’s table would be a great option for a woman alone or a group of foodie friends would enjoy a bird’s eye view of the action. We opted for a quiet table for two.
We both started with an amuse bouche of a perfectly caramelized scallop on a bed of sweetly-stewed onions, butter, and herbs. The seafood was fabulously fresh and the perfect start to dinner. I then had the soup of the day, a delicious white bean soup redolent of smoky ham and herbs. It was perfect for a fall night.
A trio of mini crab cakes on an aioli type sauce and fresh greens from the appetizer menu followed the soup. The crab cakes were perfect. They were crisp and full of tasty fresh crab.
Angela grew up in Germany and she loves traditional pork dishes. She ordered the fresh local pork chop. She told me it was tastiest, juiciest pork she had in very long time. We both enjoyed the wine that we ordered by the glass. Neither of our selections was disappointing, as is so often the case with wine by the glass. There were several good choices of each varietal. We split the vanilla crème brûlée for dessert.
For me, a spa trip provides the perfect combination of bonding time and relaxation on a short getaway with girlfriends. A nice hotel with a great spa lets everyone relax and forget about driving and traffic for a day or two as well while indulging in some well-deserved pampering.
If you haven’t had time to catch up with your best friends lately why not try to plan a spa weekend, or at least an afternoon in spa heaven. It will do you a world of good. Just ask the experts.
The Chattanoogan Hotel has a Girls Just Want to Have Fun Package. It includes deluxe overnight for 2 nights with breakfast for 2 days, a spa lunch as well as a full menu spa pampering, and other treats.   It starts at $500 per person based on double occupancy.
The hotel has modern mountain decor with dramatic but cozy fire pits and many amenities.

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The art of the blowout

Angela D'amario with her stylsit Jamila and her freshky blown doNow that blow dry bars are springing up all over the place, do you ever wonder how much more fabulous a professional blow dry is than one you do yourself? Blow dry bars specialize in styling hair. They don’t cut it or colour it; they dry it, pouf it, and even put it up. They are quick, and at about $35 dollars, are relatively less expensive than salons. Many serve cocktails, too.
Our own Angela D’Amario visited the Drybar for an evening of fun and styling. Here is Angela’s report:

I often fantasize about how much more free time I would have every day if I never needed to style my own hair.  My mane is curly and thick, and — beyond wearing it in its naturally wavy form — a pain to tame. Oh, how I envy ladies like Amber Rose who look fabulous bald!  

Last week, I visited Drybar, a wash-and-dry-only salon, for the first time. Blow-dry bars have been popping up in major cities across the U.S. They cater to busy women who want hair perfection in a breeze.

While there, I imagined how wonderful it would be to never have to wash and style my own hair again. I asked my stylist, Jamila, whether I could get by with a weekly blowout if I used dry shampoo. Jamila said those with less-oily scalps could do it, so I gave it a go. I was only able to make it four days before jumping head first into the shower to feel the relief of real shampoo.
Drybar is a fantastic option for looking picture-perfect for several days at social events, such as weddings, vacations, and during the holiday-party season. Drybar offers nearly 10 different styles, all cleverly named for cocktails, at $35 per blowout. From curly to straight to up styles, they have a look for every occasion.
I have a wedding next month, so I’ll be booking my Florida-ready blowout soon. I’m thinking Drybar’s beach-wave look.  
To find the Drybar location nearest you, visit

Chocolate on the rocks from Godiva

Angels's favourite : Les Femmes CoupeAs we mentioned earlier, our own Angela D’Amario dropped by the Atlanta Drybar for a fun evening of blow-drying and cocktailing. While she was there, she was treated to a combination of two of most women’s favourite comestibles, Godiva chocolate and vodka.
Here is Angela’s report:

I’ve noticed, over the last few years, the vodka market has been flooded with unusual flavors covering almost every food type.  Three Olives has cake and fruit-loop flavors, and Bakon is — you guessed it — bacon-flavored vodka. While I don’t think it’s a horrible idea to flavor vodka after our favorite treats, it’s much smarter to take a beloved gourmet truffle brand and craft a distilled beverage around it.

Last week, I had the pleasure of sampling both Godiva’s Chocolate Infused Vodka and Chocolate/Raspberry Vodka.  While both are smooth and enjoyable to drink straight up (not to mention their fabulous aftertastes), I loved them in cocktails too. At Godiva’s Atlanta event, Femme Du Coupe’s Revae Schneider featured three of her cocktail creations.  My favorite was the "Les Femmes Coupe" (recipe below), which I swear will be a flavor party in your mouth.  Both vodkas are available across the U.S. and are sure to be hits with the millions of people who love the company’s chocolate truffles:

Les Femmes Coupe
Ingredients (for one drink)
½ ounce Godiva Chocolate Raspberry Vodka
1½ ounces PIMM’S No. 1  
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
2 droppers of Bittercube Orange Bitters
1 dash Regans #6 Bitters
Orange and lemon slices for garnish
Combine Godiva Chocolate Raspberry Vodka, PIMM’S No. 1, lemon juice, simple syrup, Bittercube Orange Bitters and Regans #6 Bitters into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.
Pour contents into a Collins Glass over ice.
Garnish with orange and lemon slices.
Ideal Serving Glass: Collins Glass ( tall thin glass)